Joy, firstly… how did the acquisition of Goodman Harvey come about?
I initially met one of the partners from Goodman Harvey who expressed interest in JMW and he then arranged for the other partner to meet us. They had been approached by others about a merger but decided to take the opportunity with us.
Why now and why that firm?
“Because they were there!”… GH presented a very good opportunity to further grow our property and litigation capabilities as well as our client base.
Had you been proactively looking at possible acquisitions for a while?
No. However, we have been approached several times by firms but we prefer to engage with individuals and teams. Being a relatively small firm meant that GH felt like a team and therefore a good fit.
What do you think will be the key benefits for both businesses?
Our combined skills and clients will produce more than the total of the two separate firms; not least because GH referred non property and litigation work to other Manchester firms.
The acquisition further consolidates your presence in Manchester and the North West but are there any other regions you’re looking to move into?
No. Manchester and the North West is our base – although we are able to operate nationally in many of our markets.
With the legal landscape changing all the time, do you think more law firms will be planning on acquiring or merging over the next few years?
In short… Yes, I do think this will be a continuing trend.
JMW has again reported strong profits. You’ve sighted a significant boost in your online instructions as one key factor for this so do you think other firms are failing to realise the importance of their online platforms?
I think presumptions are made that aren’t always correct about the type and degree of work that can come from websites. We are often surprised by the clients who do choose to contact and instruct us from the website including those from the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. The web is not only the preserve of private clients but some commercial ones also. Of course, there are many other firms also taking advantage of digital marketing, social media and other online activities.
How do you think the North West legal market will change over the next five years?
More mergers, more new entrants (law firm and non-law firms) as well as more small boutique practices where partners have left larger law firms by choice or otherwise. The picture for entrants from other regions hasn’t been uniformly good and in my opinion, a firm needs to have existing clients and contacts able to refer work in the North West before contemplating opening here. Geographic spread isn’t a good enough reason alone. However, I don’t think it will be unrecognisable and the stronger firms will survive. Size is largely irrelevant; it’s about deciding what markets you want to operate in and acquiring a sufficient market share.